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Covenant Theology: From Adam to Christ

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Covenant Theology: From Adam to Christ is a reprint of two seventeenth century theologians, Nehemiah Coxe and John Owen. It amply displays the fact that seventeenth century Particular Baptists fit within the broader Covenant Theology of that day.

388 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2005

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Nehemiah Coxe

11 books8 followers

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5 stars
81 (64%)
4 stars
33 (26%)
3 stars
8 (6%)
2 stars
3 (2%)
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Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews
Profile Image for Pascal Denault.
21 reviews22 followers
February 22, 2013
A must read for all reformed baptist. Owen and Coxe are my two favorite English theologians. Thanks to the editors for making their work available.
Profile Image for Richard Lawrence.
151 reviews13 followers
November 13, 2022
"Believers were saved under it, but not by virtue of it." - page 198

The aim of this book is to provide historic exegesis supporting the 1689 federalist position (i.e. Baptist Covenant Theology). The substance of the book is two 17th century works both of which have had minor language updates; revised punctuation and some archaic words replaced but they're not abridged.

What is 1689 Federalism?
(This is my own summary to help any potential reader know what this book is angling for)

A form of covenant theology that holds to:
- the Covenant of Redemption as taught by the mainstream reformed AND
- the Covenant of Works as taught by the mainstream reformed

BUT identifies the Covenant of Grace as the New Covenant. It argues that salvation by grace was promised throughout the old testament from Genesis 3:15 forward, but the saints who were saved under the old testament administrations were NOT saved by the covenant they were in but rather by trusting the promise of the New Covenant which was to come.

Seeing the Old Covenant as a promise of the New Covenant but NOT an administration of it leads to an expectation of further differences in substance not just outward appearance between these two periods of redemptive history - this undercuts the argument for paedobaptism.

Who is this book for?
This work is slightly more accessible than the original texts it is based off of but it's certainly not an easy read and not a book I would reccomend widely.

If you're looking for an introductory book on 1689 Federalism "The Mystery of Christ his Covenant and his Kingdom" by Samuel Renihan is a better choice. Or if you just want a clear argument for the baptism of believers only from this perspective I reccomend "The Baptism of Disciples Alone" by Fred Malone.

This book would be good for:
- a presbyterian minister wanting to test his position against a strong historic argument
- a baptist wanting to add some historical depth to his understanding
- someone looking for a taster of older writers like Coxe and Owen - the minor language update in this volume makes this a slightly easier way in that reading them "raw" without losing their distinctiveness like an abridgement would
- anyone who wants to engage in arguments over presbyterian vs baptist covenant theology, this book contains much of the strongest material from the baptist side and so ought to be engaged with

Also a reader should note that John Owen was a congregationalist and a paedobaptist, he disagreed with the baptist understanding of Genesis 17 BUT he (broadly) agreed with their understanding of the Mosaic covenant and its relationship to the new covenant, hence the inclusion of his work on that here.

The book contains:
- "A discourse of the Covenants that God with man before the Law" by Nehemiah Coxe
- Exposition of Hebrews 8:6-13 by John Owen (this is an extract from the 6th volume of Owen's commentary on Hebrews)
- Brief biographies of Nehemiah Coxe and John Owen
- An Outline of Coxe's work
- An Essay by Richard C. Barcellos demonstrating that John Owen's position is not compatible with the modern idea of "New Covenant Theology"
- A scripture index for the entire volume

Coxe's Discourse
Nehemiah Coxe walks through God's covenantal dealings with man prior to Moses.

With each covenant he seeks to expound the purpose of the covenant, the nature of the covenant and the requirements of the covenant, he also seeks to distinguish between requirements that are specific to that covenantal arrangement and ones that reflect an underlying or enduring reality.

He deals with:
- the covenant of works
- the promise of grace in Genesis 3:15
- God's dealing with men in the time prior to Noah
- The flood and the Ark and how this pointed forward to Christ
- The Noahic covenant
- The Promise of Grace to Abraham in Genesis 12
- The covenant of Circumcision in Genesis 17
- The implications of this position for baptism including looking at Colossians 2:11 and Romans 4:11

Coxe argues that whilst salvation through Christ was promised in all of God's dealings with men following the fall, the covenant of circumcision in Genesis 17 was not an administration of this gracious salvation but was rather a covenant promising the land of Canaan in reward for works performed, this served to prepare for and point forward to the coming of Christ; and Abraham and others within this covenant were saved eternally as they trusted the promises BUT they were not saved by this covenant of circumcision (or the fuller Mosaic administration that it anticipated).

Side note there is a significant error in the grammar update on one page of Coxe's material - one double negative (i.e. positive) was accidentally turned into a single negative, this is on page 71. Coxe is saying that the covenant of grace made with Abraham in Genesis 12 was the same in substance as the promise in Genesis 3:15 - but this edition says "was not" instead. See Samuel Renihan's comments on this mistake here: https://pettyfrance.files.wordpress.c...

Owen's Exposition
Owen crawls very slowly through Hebrews 8:6-13, discussing how the "New covenant" is superior to the "old covenant", what the substance is of each and what it means that the "Old covenant" has passed away.

His argument in most places is very persuasive if a little drawn out. It is also wonderfully edifying.

Owen identifies the "Old covenant" that has passed away as the Mosaic covenant and the New Covenant as the covenant of Grace, he even says "no man was ever saved but by virtue of the new covenant" page 180, though he does later clarify that he doesn't mean to identify the new covenant as the covenant of grace absolutely in such a way as to exclude salvation from anyone before it.

Owen very clearly repudiates the mainstream "one covenant under two administrations" position e.g. on page 188 he says "I will propose various things which relate to the nature of the first covenant, which manifest it to have been a distinct covenant, and not a mere administration of the covenant of grace".

He argues that the Mosaic covenant was substantially a law based agreement offering the land of Canaan, and serving to prepare the way for and point forward to the coming of Christ. Summarising a core part of this position he says of the Mosaic covenant on page 198 "But as to what it had of its own, it was confined to things temporal. Believers were saved under it, but not by virtue of it. Sinners perished eternally under it, but by the curse of the original law of works."

Owen further argues that whilst some in the old covenant were saved (by trusting the promises, not by the covenant itself) and some were not; everyone who is truly in the New Covenant is saved (though we may not know for sure who the true membership of it is in this life).

However contrary to the Baptist position Owen asserts on page 171 that the promise to Adam and Eve and the covenant with Abraham are "consistent with the 'new covenant' so as that there was no necessity to remove them"; whilst Nehemiah Coxe (and other baptists) would agree concerning the promise he would disagree concerning the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17.

Conclusion
This book taken as a whole makes a strong argument for a baptist form of covenant theology where the old covenant is seen as a works based arrangement concerning inheritance of Canaan and a promise/type/shadow of the new covenant but not an administration of it. Whilst Owen disagrees with the Baptist view of Genesis 17 his handling of the Mosaic covenant dovetails with the baptist view perfectly.

Note all of the material from Owen here is taken from his Exposition of Hebrews and can be found in the 6th volume of that 7 volume set or the 22nd volume of his complete works. Whilst this edition has a small grammatical update there is no new Owen content here.

(I have not attempted to reproduce any of the actual arguments above if you want to read the case read the book.)
Profile Image for Patrick McWilliams.
80 reviews11 followers
October 16, 2022
Coxe's treatment of the Adamic, Noahic, and Abrahamic covenants, paired with Owen's discourse on the Sinaitic and New Covenants, makes this book indispensable reading, particularly for Reformed Baptists. My only wish was that a discussion of the Davidic covenant was included by one of these great theologians, but that's not enough to drop a star from my rating!
13 reviews1 follower
April 12, 2020
One of the most important books to read, concerning Baptist Covenant Theology. This is by far my favorite book that I have read. Nehemiah Coxe dealing with the Covenants before the law, and John Owen dealing with the Old and New Covenants is such a blessed read! Dr. Barcellos’ short polemic on John Owen’s (faux) relation to BCT is also very helpful. Thank you RBAP, for compiling and publishing such a great book!
May 21, 2022
I've only read the Coxe portion as my interests currently are focused on particular Baptist readings of the covenants. Very insightful read, but challenging at places. To best process it, one would need to reflect on Gal. 3, 4 & Rom. 4 in relation to Genesis 12-17 and compare with Coxe's treatment.

Overall, it is certainly worth the effort.
Profile Image for Jake Litwin.
128 reviews7 followers
October 9, 2021
An insightful volume on covenant theology from the 17th century. The main gem from this book is John Owen’s expositional commentary on Hebrews 8:6-13 and the New Covenant.
Profile Image for Brandon Adams.
8 reviews23 followers
April 6, 2017
I first read this volume almost two years ago, and have since recommended it to as many people as I could. At the time, I was preparing to teach a bible study through the book of Genesis. As a Reformed Baptist, I knew I would have to address God's covenant with Abraham, so I began diving into covenant theology. I was a little surprised and somewhat bewildered by what I read - as it didn't match my own thoughts on the subject. I knew I wasn't a dispensationalist, but I didn't seem to be lining up with covenant theology either. What was wrong with me? As it turns out, nothing! I just hadn't read Owen yet!

As I did my best to gather my own thoughts from Scripture on God's covenants before consulting the brightest minds, I saw numerous covenants that God made, only one of which was salvific - the new covenant. Yet this wasn't being confirmed in what I read. Thus it was a gust of fresh air when I finally read Owen say: "No man was ever saved but by virtue of the new covenant, and the mediation of Christ in that respect." How was Abraham saved? Was it by the Abrahamic Covenant? No, says Owen. He was saved by the New Covenant, which existed only as a promise until the time of Christ, at which point it became a covenant formally established, governing the worship of God.

Owen's 150+ pages of commentary on Heb 8:6-13 are a tour de force in deductive reasoning. He lays out all possible interpretations and then systematically and logically addresses each, comparing with the rest of what Scripture says, until he reaches his conclusion:
"...Having noted these things, we may consider that the Scripture does plainly and expressly make mention of two testaments, or covenants, and distinguish between them in such a way as can hardly be accommodated by a twofold administration of the same covenant...Wherefore we must grant two distinct covenants, rather than merely a twofold administration of the same covenant, to be intended." Owen was not afraid to reject the conclusions of the Westminster divines, and to state that he was doing so. Many today are eager to downplay or ignore Owen's rejection of the WCF formulation of God's covenants, but Owen himself was very open and clear about it.

One of the greatest contributions of this volume is to make Owen's commentary on Hebrews 8:6-13 available as a separate volume for those who don't own his entire works or his entire commentary on Hebrews. Of course, the other excellent contribution is from Nehemiah Coxe (most likely the editor of the LBC 1677/89). Coxe offers many helpful insights into covenant theology, such as:
"...we cannot from there conclude that the promise is made to Abraham's seed both natural and spiritual in one and the same sense. But only this much will fairly follow from it: that the apostle argues from the carnal seed as typical to the spiritual seed as typified by it. In so arguing he makes special use of the terms in which the promise is made as purposely fitted to its typical respect or spiritual sense. Similarly the prohibition of breaking a bone of the paschal lamb, which was a type of Christ, is applied by John to Christ himself who was typified by it (John 19:36 with Exodus 12:46)."

The introduction/historical background offered by James Renihan was very helpful in setting the stage and explaining why Coxe and Owen were included in the same volume. Richard Barcellos also offers a very helpful refutation of New Covenant Theology's misinterpretation/misuse of Owen. It seems there is much misuse of Owen from many sides. Of course many suggest the baptists who published this volume are guilty of misusing Owen, who was himself a paedobaptist. The only way to know who is and who is not misreading Owen is to read him yourself! (I created an interactive outline of Owen's commentary to aid in that respect. Simply google "John Owen's Commentary on the Old and New Covenants (Outline)")

I offer 4 stars instead of 5 only because in the end, I can't agree with Coxe's view that there were two covenants made with Abraham - though he offers much to consider. I recommend A. W. Pink's treatment of the Abrahamic Covenant over Coxe's.

Update: Pascal Denault's new book "The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology" has helped clarify my understanding of what Coxe said about the Abrahamic covenant. He believed there was only one formal covenant made with Abraham, not two. I highly recommend reading Denault's work alongside this one as it helps greatly with interpretation on a few points.
Profile Image for John.
100 reviews1 follower
May 3, 2019
Both sections of the nook were great, but Coxe's was a little easier to follow. Owen's portion was quite meaty and I admit I struggled through it.
Profile Image for Simon Wartanian.
Author 2 books10 followers
April 19, 2018
Before reading this volume, I read Pascal's work which brought me to Reformed Baptist 1689 Federalism and then I read Recovering A Covenantal Heritage. These works were great, but I missed something. That something was John Owen's mind-blowing exegesis. I was amazed and mind-blown but the grace that was extended to this man in the understanding and explaining of the Scripture. It was biblical and compelling.

It was also nice to read Nehemiah Coxe on the Adamic, Noahic and Abrahamic Covenant.

I found also helpful that they included Richard Barcellos and his defense of Owen against New Covenant theologians. Barcellos is great and I have benefited from reading his appendix on Owen and the Old Covenant.

A great and necessary work for 1689 Federalism.
Profile Image for Troy Nevitt.
193 reviews1 follower
March 17, 2019
Truth be told, I'm sure that this book deserves a better rating than I'm giving it. I'm not familiar enough with how Owen writes to be able to have a serious grasp on the material he provided in this book, nor am I able to discern Coxe's works either.

Both men are clearly smart, and have much to say, but to be able to have a reasonable time reading Owen, you should have a firm grasp of Greek, Hebrew, some Syriac, and Latin if possible.

This book did help me in multiple passages, so I'm glad I worked my way through it, but it will be one I'll have to come back to eventually to be able to understand the whole scope of what they wish to say.
Profile Image for Austin Hoffman.
273 reviews6 followers
July 24, 2017
Both sections of the book were very helpful, although I would have appreciated more exegesis and defense from Coxe on his position. It was fascinating to see Owen defending essentially the Baptist Covenant position , while remaining paedobaptist.
Profile Image for Brandon.
31 reviews2 followers
March 12, 2019
This book is the best treatment of the Covenants I have ever read, and has been one of the most influential books on my theology to this day. It advocates for a distinctly Baptist perspective on Covenant Theology that sadly dwindled in the 20th Century (though has thankfully seen a revival in recent years). Nehemiah Coxe systematically goes through each covenant except the Mosaic in his portion of the book. This section is very readable, especially considering it was originally written in the 1600s. Owen's commentary on Hebrews 8 is a more in depth treatment of the Mosaic, and while not quite as readable (it's Owen), this section is also immensely helpful.
Profile Image for Aaron Irlbacher.
72 reviews3 followers
July 2, 2022
Excellent book. Reading old authors, being edited and formatted for modern readers is definitely my favorite. Covenant Theology is so helpful. If a Christian is a full blown Cov theo nerd, or a new student on the subject, or a hard core Dispensationalist, the contents of this book ought to be read and digested.

Maybe the most significant point of this book in Covenant theology is that the “new” in New Covenant is not merely another administration of the one covenant of grace. Baptists who hold covenant theology in high regard will be blessed by this book especially.
Profile Image for Dalton Box.
11 reviews
August 5, 2021
A bit tedious at times. Particularly in the John Owen half of the book. It is a good representation of 17th century Baptist understanding of the covenants. It was refreshing also to read a historical Baptist theologian with friends. I cannot think of a person I would recommend this to other that someone who wants to read some 17th century Baptist works firsthand. There are more helpful resources on the biblical covenants.
Profile Image for Timothy Decker.
270 reviews11 followers
May 17, 2017
Helpful to see the historic roots of Baptist Covenant Theology. 1689 Federalism needs more fleshing out for modern use, however. We need more books like this one!
Profile Image for Alex Lomangino.
119 reviews6 followers
June 2, 2021
This review is just for the Coxe portion. Coxe had helpful insights here and there but overall I was pretty underwhelmed.
Profile Image for Daniel.
50 reviews2 followers
March 29, 2022
Good book generally and worth it for the Barcellos essay and Owens portion from his Hebrews commentary. I was not convinced of Coxe's position on covenant Theology, but well done volume.
Profile Image for Kenneth Clayton.
196 reviews8 followers
June 20, 2011
Coxe, Nehemiah & Owen, John: Covenant Theology From Adam to Christ
“Containing A Discourse of the covenant that God made with men before the Law. Wherin, the Covenant of Circumcision is more largely handled, and the invalidity of the plea for paeodobaptism taken from thence discovered. By Nehemiah Coxe and An Exposition of Hebrews 8:6-13. Wherein, the nature and differences between the Old and New Covenants is discovered. By John Owen” Edited by Ronald D. Miller, James M. Renihan, and Francisco Orozco
This was a good book, it was very interesting to read a particular Baptist writing on covenant theology, the covenant of works and grace and using it in a way that shows infant baptism not to be biblical. It was also interesting that Coxe a Baptist recommended Owens commentary on Hebrews 8 in dealing with the New Covenant. Coxe was easier to read so in a way I wish he had gone ahead and written another work easier to grasp than Owen, but I also need to study this topic more and probably should have before reading this book, but wanted to get a good Baptist perspective. I would recommend this book to those interested in covenant theology especially in Baptist history and want a good understanding of the covenant with Abrham as well as the new covenant describe in Hebrews 8.
Publisher: Reformed Baptist Academic Press
Year: 2005
Pages: 376
Boards: Harback
Binding: Sewn
Dust Cover: No
Scripture Index: yes
Subject Index: yes
Other included material: Biographical of Coxe and Owen, outline of Coxe’s work, and Richard Barcellos paper dealing with John Owen and New Covenant Theology (Tom Wells and John Reisinger main proponents)
July 12, 2014
Excellent book! I would say the greatest benefit of this book is the light it has shed on many Scripture passages. Knowing that our triune God always deals with us by way of covenant, to begin to read the Bible through a covenantal lens has been a great blessing.

Also, it has given me a better understanding of the covenant theologians( along with their confessions) of the 17th century. Being that I am a 2LBC RB, and worshipping in an OPC, this book has hopefully further equipped me for more fruitful and charitable discussion with our Presbyterian brothers.

Lastly, it has helped me to better come to know and understand my place in redemptive history as a Christian some 2000 years on this side of the Cross. As one who is slowly coming out of the many theological misunderstandings that we have in the church today, I can't tell you how refreshing this book was.
I love reading and learning and talking about covenant theology, and I hope that God will allow for more of the work of our particular baptist forefathers to be republished. Praise God for working through the writers, and those who helped to republish this book!


I need to mention one more thing. Pascal Denault's recent book on Baptist Covenant Theology was a great help to go along with this book. I highly recommend pairing them together if you so desire.
Profile Image for Davey Ermold.
61 reviews
April 15, 2013
This book was recommended to me by one of my best friends as the standard text for covenant theology. And for that, I rate it two stars.

On its own merits, however, I found it severely lacking in a sound Scriptural basis; I came away a stauncher dispensationalist than when I began it. Just because someone [rightly] places emphasis upon the sovereignty and grace of God clearly does not mean that their hermeneutical system is proper and well-supported. To support an entire system on the basis of implied covenants at the expense of explicit covenants (berith) [e.g., Abrahamic] is misguided; rather, the explicit covenants should be read at face value, and the framework set from there.
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